Finance PEAK: People

Current Opportunities

The Expression of Interest process for Phase 1 units has concluded. Unfilled positions were posted internally for 10 days for University employees. After that period, positions may be opened further to external job seekers.

Meet Rahfat Hussain

Director of Finance Operations Center

As the new Finance Operations (FinOps) Director, Rahfat brings both knowledge and experience within the University of Minnesota. Over the last fifteen years he has worked with the College of Pharmacy, College of Liberal Arts, Office of the Provost, and School of Dentistry. He has served as a senior accountant, finance manager, finance analyst, and most recently as the chief financial officer for the College of Pharmacy. 

Rahfat’s senior executive leadership experience in higher education has prepared him to offer service excellence system wide as the new FinOps Director. His passion for organizational behavior and management efficiency coupled with his problem solving enthusiasm and his pursuit of continuous improvement to add value to the institution make him a good fit for the FinOps Center.

Rahfat Hussain profile photo

Q & A with Rahfat

To learn more about the leadership style and get to know Rahfat a bit more, we talked with him about his new role and recent campus meetings. We asked about the new Operations Center and a few other things to get a feel for his management style and the road ahead for staffing.

Q: What do you envision for the new Finance Operations Center?

A: I imagine the FinOps Center to be a center of excellence serving our entire University community in an efficient and timely manner.  I want the FinOps Center to be the first call (or email) when colleagues have a need or are trying to solve a problem. While we may not have all the answers I expect and promise that we would help find a solution.

Q: What opportunities are you offering to staff that they don’t have now?

A: The FinOps center offers a solid and clear career path in Finance and Accounting.  We deliberately designed the FinOps Center with positions starting as an executive accounts specialist and progressing from there to a finance professional or even finance manager.  As we serve more and more departments, and colleges, we will have a need for more finance professionals and I anticipate that there will be no shortage of opportunities for those who aspire for a career in finance.

Q: What’s your leadership style?

A: I love to collaborate with my colleagues across the organization because I believe this is the only way to learn as much as possible from a wide variety of people.  I always treat all my colleagues with respect and have an open mindset to learn from each other.  All of us have different views and I believe that difference in opinion is a valuable learning opportunity  when I work with my team.

Q: How did your career lead you where you are today?

A: I think curiosity and mindset to learn as much as possible led to my seven different roles at the University over the last fifteen years.  I was curious about other organizations within our University and how they operated and worked with others in the general University community.  Having a passion for solving problems also led me to ask all sorts of questions and widen my professional network within the University community.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you are trying to solve currently in your new role?

A: Currently, building an effective team from the ground up is my greatest professional challenge. I have to try and imagine the FinOps Center five years from now as it hums along serving the University community.  I have to imagine working with my colleagues and my team and I have to imagine and anticipate future challenges in our work and our changing environment at the University.

Q: How do you envision the culture will work to help keep staff connected to both their campus or college and with their new team in the Operations CenterTeam?

A: Building an effective is challenging especially in the post pandemic world where most of us are scattered in different locations.  However, this also affords us the opportunity to leverage technology to bridge the physical distance between us and that is what I hope to do with all of us.  On a frequent basis, I want all of us to come together to celebrate our achievements and share stories with each other - I think that would go a long way to build a strong bond between us as a team and with our colleges and campuses that we serve.

Q: What do you like to do when you are not building a FinOps Center?

A: I love to spend every free minute with my family.  To me, there is nothing more precious and the cliche, life is short, is indeed very true.  I love to watch my two young children grow everyday and I especially love to share in their wonders as they discover the world one day at a time.

Meet Jenni Larson

FinOps Center Accounting Manager

Jenni has over twenty-five years of experience working in finance and administration at the University of Minnesota. She has worked with the University of Minnesota Extension, the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, and the College of Science and Engineering. She has experience in all areas of finance, having served in key leadership positions where she was able to significantly improve financial operations. Most importantly, Jenni has learned how to work effectively within this large organization and has creatively and collaboratively solved complex financial and budgetary problems. 

Jenni’s vast experience in finance operations and leadership have prepared her well for this new role. She values and supports a collaborative team environment and looks forward to working together with the common goal of providing outstanding financial services and contributing to the success of the FinOps Center.

Portrait of Jenni Larson

Q & A with Jenni

To learn more about her previous experience and leadership style we talked with Jenni about the new role within the FinOps Center.

Q: What do you believe will be the biggest resource that the Fin Ops Center will provide campuses, colleges, and units?

A: I think the biggest resource is a dedicated team of experts who will process financial transactions accurately and efficiently. Collectively, our team has a tremendous amount of experience, and we will be working hard to make this transition as smooth as possible.

Q: How will you lead your staff to stay connected with the Fin Ops Center and work closely with the units you will be supporting systemwide?

A: We will have ongoing team meetings, one-on-one check ins, and opportunities to come together in person. We will be responsive to the needs of the units we are supporting.

Q: What’s your leadership style?

A: My leadership style is collaborative. I thrive in a team environment where we work together by identifying and using our individual strengths to achieve shared goals together. I believe strongly in communicating clear expectations and leading by example.

Q: How did your career lead you where you are today?

A: My entire professional career has been at the University of Minnesota, in various colleges and departments. I have worked in almost every area of finance and each one of those experiences was an opportunity to gain a better understanding of this institution, develop great relationships and contribute to financial problem solving.

Q: What are some of the challenges ahead that you will be working through as you begin working in the FinOps Center?

A: The challenge, as I see it and hear from others, is that this is a new way of doing things at the University.  There is no road map to follow, but that is also the exciting part of this journey! The Fin Ops Center will create efficiencies, elevate compliance, and provide opportunities and support for staff. 

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not working to manage accounts for the FinOps Center?

A: I enjoy time with family and friends, nurturing my green thumb, and seeking out new challenges and experiences.

Meet Doug Ahlgren

Purchasing Manager for the Finance Operations Center

Joining the Finance Operations Center leadership team as a senior purchasing and procurement manager, Doug Ahlgren will lead the team providing services related to purchasing and accounts payable. 

Doug brings a wealth of purchasing, supplier sourcing, contract management, and related experience from his time serving in the United States Air Force and here at the University of Minnesota in the Office of Information Technology (OIT), where he currently manages enterprise contracts for services, hardware purchasing, and software purchasing for the system. 

Doug lives just north of Duluth, and we can all look forward to varied and interesting first-hand news and weather reports from the Iron Range. Doug and his family run a hobby farm where they raise Scottish Highland cattle. He is also an avid outdoorsman who enjoys hunting, fishing, and training bird dogs.

Portrait photo of Doug Ahlgren

Q & A with Doug

To learn more about his leadership style and get to know Doug a bit more, we talked with him about the new role in the Fin Ops Center.

Q: What do you believe will be the biggest resource that the Fin Ops Center will provide campuses, colleges and units?

A: I’d say, customer service will be our primary value proposition. Purchasing at the University is a complex subject area full of policies, regulations, and pitfalls. Fin Ops doesn’t change the University’s purchasing policies but it will provide a go-to location for guidance, help, and the support people need to make purchasing smoother and less stressful.

Q: How will you lead your staff, stay connected with the Fin Ops Center and work closely with the units you will be supporting across the State?

A: As we staff up the Fin Ops Center I’ll be developing a regular cadence of check-ins and 1:1s with the team. I also plan to visit each of the campuses on a regular basis to connect with staff and customers face-to-face in those locations. Whether you reach out through email, chat, Zoom, or phone my door is always open to ask questions or bounce around ideas. I think if we focus first on the work that needs to happen in most cases the modality isn’t as important. It’s like going to the toolbox and picking the right tool for the job. I want to keep the communications toolbox as well stocked as possible so we can tackle anything that comes our way. 

Q: What’s your leadership style?

A: My leadership is heavily influenced by three core values: Integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do. I’m a big believer in the idea of creating a motivated team with a clear mission and then getting out of their way. My role as a leader is to make sure we’re articulating the vision and mission clearly; making the right tools available to achieve that mission; and providing the coaching and feedback necessary to motivate and empower each team member to take ownership over their work. 

Q: What drew you to apply for a position with the Fin Ops Center?

A: From being an Air Force Contracting Officer to managing OIT’s supply chain my whole career has been about purchasing and procurement in one form or another. On top of that, I have a deep interest in and enjoy leading people. So this role seemed like a perfect fit. I’m very excited to get started building this team and bringing the Fin Ops Center to life. 

Q: What are some of the challenges ahead that you will be working through as you begin working in the Fin Ops Center? 

A: I think one of the first challenges is staffing up to make sure we have the capacity to handle the work we’re taking on. In addition to that, even though many of our staff are already current University employees, we’re now forming them into a new cohesive team. So, team building and creating the Fin Ops identity are going to be early challenges we’ll take on. I expect too that we’ll encounter processes and considerations unique to each of the units we’ll be supporting. We’ll have to figure out how to accommodate those things while still striving to create standardization and efficiency across the Fin Ops Center. 

Q: What is your favorite thing about living on a hobby farm and what chore is your least favorite?

A: A lot of the work I do for the University is on a computer, sitting at a desk. When I log off for the day, I get to go swing a hammer or pick up the chainsaw or maybe just saddle up the horse and go for a ride. The farm brings me balance. Filling up water in the winter is probably my least favorite chore. We don’t have any auto-waterers installed yet so for the livestock tank I have to haul a hose reel out of the basement and pull that out through the snow to the tank. For the birds I haul 5 gallon buckets from the house to the barn daily to fill up water bowls. In sub-zero temps with a northwest wind, that job isn’t too fun. 

Meet Gary Nelson

Finance Operations Center Accounts Receivable Manager

Gary has been working in finance for the University in various departments for the past six years and prior to that, the Minnesota Orchestral Association for fourteen years. Gary has experience in fund accounting, auditing, management, training, and has developed a well-rounded understanding of the complexity of the University's financial environment. Moreover, Gary appreciates and understands how vital the people are in what we do at the University and how we will all play a vital role in providing exceptional, accurate, and timely financial services to the University statewide.

Gary resides in the Twin Cities with his partner and enjoys spending as much time as possible with his family and friends, often playing board games. Gary dedicates time every day to piano practice and music, he has taken up oil painting, and enjoys international travel and all of the food involved. He likes to stay active with exercise and meditation, and you’ll often hear him complaining about doing too much yard work but secretly loving it.

Photo of Gary Nelson

Q & A with Gary

To learn more about his leadership style and get to know Gary a bit more, we talked with him about the new role in the Fin Ops Center.

Q: What do you believe will be the biggest resource that the Fin Ops Center will provide campuses, colleges, and units?

A: Delivering consistently accurate, timely, and personable financial services to the University community. The University is inherently complex and the FinOps Center will be the place where policy meets practice and therefore a functional resource for the University.

Q: How will you lead your staff, stay connected with the Fin Ops Center, and work closely with the units you will be supporting across the State?

A: There is a lot to consider here since we are a team peppered across the state and entering new territory. We have the practical tools and the experience of staying connected remotely thanks in part to the pandemic, but in reality, staying connected and engaged requires a lot of attention. While I have some good ideas and tools at the ready, my general approach will be guided by working with the team itself and understanding what is important to them and collectively sharing ways we can all stay connected and engaged.

Q: What’s your leadership style?

A: First and foremost, I lead by example. It is a simple notion, but a notion that I have respected in the leaders I have worked with throughout my career and something I take to heart and employ myself. I approach leadership with flexibility and rely on the experiences and knowledge I’ve gained over time and I understand that different scenarios and different people benefit from different approaches.

Overall, my style tends to be practical and collaborative, and I like to be clear with my communication and my expectations–while also making sure I understand others’ expectations of me. Additionally, nothing pleases me more than seeing someone learn, develop, and feel good about their accomplishments so I like to find ways to help people learn and develop.

Q: How did your career lead you where you are today?

A: My path has been mostly non linear–I went from music school to accounting with many adventures along the way. While I used to envy the people that knew exactly what they wanted to do, through my professional and academic exploration, I’ve learned where my aptitudes and interests are and where I can be fruitful. On the technical side, I thoroughly enjoy accounting and the logic involved, but overall, I thrive at working with and developing people.

Q: What are some of the challenges ahead that you will be working through as you begin working in the Fin Ops Center? 

A: At the forefront of my mind is how we will meet the immediate needs of getting this massive machine up and running with all of the functional hurdles and challenges. Staying connected is going to be crucial too. Not only connected as a team, but moreover how we stay connected to the University’s mission, departments, colleges, units, and the U community that rely on our services. It is all too easy to detach from those important connections once you get buried in your process, but those connections and symbiotic relationships will be what guide our ability to provide and maintain quality service.

Q: What are some of the activities you like to do while not working?

A: It’s important to me to always be actively learning, exploring, and creating. I probably have too many interests and pursuits, but an interesting one is that I have always been a big reader of (or listening to audiobooks on) physics and cosmology. It’s a field where as humanity expands its knowledge and understanding of it, the amount we don’t know and understand grows even bigger.